In the era of unprecedented technological advancements in documentation, few innovations have captivated our imagination and transformed our world quite like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. As we peer into the horizon, the future of AI appears ever more enticing, promising a plethora of awe-inspiring possibilities poised to redefine the very fabric of our existence.
However, the advancement of AI and machine learning also raises concerns about the potential displacement of human labor.
The prevailing AI technology in the realm of documentation is opening new doors to create unlimited content in no time. It employs existing information on the internet and predetermined algorithms to generate maximum output with minimal input.
However, regarding documentation, AI is still in its infancy and can’t replace human documentation specialists. Documentation requires understanding the end user’s needs, goals, and motivations for often new products and services that AI hasn’t learned about yet.
Though AI and machine learning has not reached the level to replace human writers in documentation jobs, the risk of automation replacing human writers is still looming. In this blog post, we’ll share the views of 11 technical writers on the influence of AI on documentation in the future.
1. Allison Hoffman, Process Documentation Specialist
As an experienced documentation specialist, Allison Hoffman believes in the next 5-10 years, documentation will undergo significant changes. However, we must ensure that we don’t depend on AI excessively but rather employ it to complement our original work. While AI can help overcome writer’s block and bring new perspectives, it can never completely replace the vital role that expert technical writers play.
She thinks the influence of AI on documentation is undeniable. It’s on track to become a daily aid, like writing software or a storytelling tool. Its ability to replace tools such as Grammarly exemplifies its potential to improve the writing process.
She believes that even with the advancement in artificial technology, technical writing remains in the hands of human writers. AI can make the job easier but cannot completely replace them. Relying on AI to gather requirements from subject matter experts would be insufficient as this process is complicated. Moreover, AI tools can’t extract data from human minds, which results in hindering the completion of deliverables.
She thinks, “The advancement of AI is not anticipated to bring about significant alterations in specific documentation standards. The composition and formatting of documents continue to be governed by the preferences and needs of the end-user or intended audience.“
Allison witnessed the impression of AI in the writing field. Her team used prompts for business analysis during a breakdown session. “However, the information generated by the AI system was more aligned with project management rather than business analytics.”
She also believes you must keep up with AI advancements to stay relevant and deliver high-quality work. As AI becomes more sophisticated, it’s crucial to understand its uses and functionalities. While AI won’t replace technical writing jobs, integrating it into documentation practices will likely become a common practice.
2. John Francis, Leader, Technical Documentation at Cisco
John Francis leads an expert team of writers that focuses on improving the Cisco Webex developer documentation. He thinks the most significant challenge the documentation industry will face in the next 5 to 10 years is using simple markup languages to appeal to a wider community of authors. Such limited languages lead to duplication of content with no way to ensure that what you are writing will deliver the expected results.
He believes that AI can help in spell-checking; however, in the field of documentation, it is a non-starter. This technology can’t create content unless it exists, and writers struggle to produce meaningful content without the necessary knowledge. It ensures that AI can’t replace humans in the writing field.
He thinks AI can evolve documentation procedures only if it can evaluate whether a technical article suits a particular task. According to him, spell checkers are an excellent choice for documentation professionals to start working with AI. They can evaluate the output of various AI tools for documentation and decide whether it suits their purposes. He believes a writer should be a subject matter expert to produce high-quality content with AI tools.
Regarding the question of how AI will change the way technical documentation is delivered to end-users, John says, “There are too many parameters, however, for any current “AI” to really help out. Maybe some sort of natural language search that helps you refine queries interactively or something.”
3. Keith Grigoletto, Documentation Manager at Curtiss-Wright Corporation
Keith Grigoletto is a documentation expert at Curtiss-Wright Corporation with several years of experience in technical documentation. He thinks the greatest hurdle documentation will face in the next 5 to 10 years is the availability of searchable documentation for interpretation.
He says, “For written material, creating documentation that retains a predictable organization but that is produced for a user who is scanning, glancing over, the material to find very specific answers and no more. In that regard, the documentation online must be incredibly searchable so that users can enter plain questions and have the documentation correctly interpret the questions and then return very accurate and fast answers.”
He thinks educational technology is the key to improving the documentation experience. Video-based demonstrations are an incredible tool to help people quickly find the necessary information.
4. Andrew DeWitt, Technical Writer
Andrew DeWitt thinks attrition, valuation, and standardization are the greatest challenges in the documentation field. These challenges are unaffected by AI technology.
He believes using reactive or limited memory has the most significant impact on tech docs. “These impacts may be seen in categorizing documentation, creating outlines based on inputs from SMEs et al, and other “automation” related tasking.”
He thinks that AI can’t replace tech writers as tech writers use content from SMEs and interpret it into usable media. It is something that AI can’t do because it can’t pull views and thoughts from people’s minds.
According to him, “The primary consumers of documentation are humans, not computers. Humans want documentation a certain way, and I don’t see them forsaking that in the pursuit of AI.” He sees AI as an assistant to the technical writer, not a replacement.
Andrew thinks that, like other technologies, documentation professionals should adopt and adapt AI technology. They should manage their working strategies and include new technologies to assist them. AI tools have impacted the technical writing industry. Numerous companies employ spell-checks, like Grammarly, to catch common spelling and grammar mistakes.
According to him, human intervention is necessary to generate quality content with AI tools. AI can create content for a static audience. However, for a dynamic audience, this technology is not mature enough and requires human expertise.
He also believes in embracing AI technology to stay ahead of the curve. Being complacent and stuck in your place is risky in many professions, including technical writing. Learn about new technologies in your field, strive to implement them, and provide feedback to improve them. There will be two groups of people: those who embrace it and master its use and those who fear change and are quick to label it as malevolent.
5. Amy Stitely, Technical Writer/Documentation Specialist
With a vast experience in technical writing, Amy Stitely strongly believes in AI technology. She thinks product and service management fields might see AI as a replacement for humans to save time and money in the coming years. However, replacing tech writers is not possible. Writing will always need human writers, as they can provide the most accurate and clear content.
According to her, “AI is a fantastic tool, and while it will grow more intelligent with training and programming, it won’t ever replace the human aspect of writing. With the rate that the English language evolves, there will undoubtedly be a need for a human, technical writer to review and adjust context and organization-specific terminology.“
Moreover, technical writing about software needs human writers who know the product. Developers know how the software works, how it works, and the design patterns. AI can’t grasp these nuances, making it challenging to replace human writers.
Amy believes in embracing new technologies and tools to improve the technical writing process. She suggests leveraging AI tools to speed up the process of writing. She says, “I think we have the opportunity to show how it can be used effectively without losing the human element.“
6. Nic Ullstrom, Technical Writer
Nic Ullstrom is an expert in information design and technical communication with a comprehensive knowledge of technical writing. He believes human writers will always be required for technical writing. However, their role will change as AI technology advances. “Maybe to edit AI-generated content. Maybe to direct and advise the AI on how to generate the content; style, voice, and tone.”
He thinks that AI will change the writing process of technical writers. Writers will work as subject matter experts. They will direct the AI on the format of the content and its structure. Nic believes writers will focus on editing and reviewing AI-generated content while working with AI tools.
According to him, AI will evolve into a completely different technology than it is present today. Its instructional part will prominently evolve in the future. The user interfaces will change. Software UIs will accept natural languages as input in oral and written form instead of various types of action buttons and input fields.
7. Rez Arranguez, Technical Writer at Hologic, Inc.
Rez Arranguez is not only an expert technical writer but an excellent researcher for his work. He admits, “The biggest challenge of documentation in the next 5-10 years will be integrating AI
technology with current practices that would lead the way for new developments.” AI will not only be limited to the writing world but also influence workplaces and schools. They must explore new methodologies for understanding AI and its influence on daily life.
He says, “AI will impact documentation by introducing new styles and methods, tones, and understandings of what we have currently.” He believes AI will significantly improve workplaces, making them more efficient. Efficient workplaces create higher demand for products and lower costs to customers.
According to Rez, the writing industry will always need human writers. However, the way they do their jobs will evolve. It’s a new technology, and its impact on our society, workplaces, and lifestyles is uncertain. “New methods, ideas, and ways of writing will have to be created as AI will be used more in the professional field.“
8. Janette Gunter, Technical Writer
Janette Gunter has been in the technical writing field for years. She has a comprehensive knowledge of content management, data analysis, and flow charts. With these skills, she can create effective documents for any type of industry.
Talking about the biggest challenge the documentation industry will face in the upcoming 5 to 10 years, she says, “I fear that people have greatly oversimplified technical writing and all it entails.“
She believes that professional writers with in-depth data knowledge can only identify the difference between a data printout and a report. The skills of expert technical writers are often undervalued by people who don’t understand the complexities involved. Such people think “plug-and-play” reports are enough to make a product successful. It is a huge challenge that the documentation industry will face in the next 5 to 10 years.
9. Jennifer Achaval, Technical Writer/Editor at General Dynamics Information Technology
After spending years in technical writing, Jennifer understands the challenges and opportunities that AI brings. She believes that AI can be a great tool for technical writers. It helps writers draw information from multiple sources into a single resource and maintains it in various locations and formats. Though it’s an excellent tool for writers, it lacks the personal touch that only a professional writer can provide.
She thinks AI can do a lot of things that human writers do. However, replacing humans with the technical writing process is not possible. “Humans are needed to provide context and a distinct perspective that AIs are not (currently) capable of.“
According to Jennifer, AI technology gathers data from disparate sources to create a single document. It acts as a starter for the writers. “This will save technical writers time, but they will have to go through what the AI creates to check for coherency, readability, and factual accuracy.” Moreover, technical writers also ensure that humans can comprehend AI works.
She believes technical writers and editors review the article thoroughly to ensure the high quality of AI tools. She also thinks, “Make sure it meets current industry standards and makes sense to the intended audiences – whether that audience consists of subject matter experts or laypeople.”
10. Linda Castellani, Senior Technical Writer
The years of experience in the technical writing world have enabled Linda to observe the potential of AI in this field. She believes the biggest hurdle of documentation in the next 5-10 years is getting the information you need for work.
She thinks, “A bigger concern is that clients won’t care as long as they have documentation to accompany the product. And who reads it anyway? Remember the “thunk factor,” when someone would loudly drop the huge document on the table and revel in how loud it was? “
She believes human tech writers are always required for efficient writing and editing. AI can’t replace the expertise of a human. A human’s discerning eye and critical thinking are still needed to give the best documentation possible.
The rise of AI will change several processes in the future, including the writing process. This technology can help SMEs to generate a draft for tech writers.
She says. “I like to think it will fade into the background and become simply a tool, like a monitor or a printer.” Documentation professionals should have excellent critical thinking skills and strong relationships with SMEs and cross-functional teams to efficiently work with AI tools.
In her opinion, AI won’t change how we provide technical documentation to end-users. Despite technological advancements over the last 40 years, the basic objective of effective and efficient delivery remains the same. The only thing that changes is the tools and methodologies to deliver the results.
Linda exemplifies the impact of AI on documentation work. She has been employing word prompts to generate images. She also thinks that you need a spokesperson in the media to handle issues to stay ahead of the curve. The words of a tech writer are also considered an opinion of a subject matter expert.
11. Dylan Small, Technical Writer
Dylan Small considers the management of rapid evolution and substantially growing intricacy of technology as the greatest challenges facing documentation in the forthcoming years. He believes that integrating artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming an integral component to streamline and improve documentation processes. “This is essential not only for operational efficiency but also to ensure the efficacy of global businesses in this technologically advanced era.“
He strongly believes that AI will revolutionize the documentation field. This technology will optimize internal workflows and enhance content creation. AI automates the repetitive task of tech writers while allowing them to focus on more sophisticated tasks. It improves their working efficiencies. Moreover, its innovative features, like content prompting, enable you to generate more engaging and high-quality content.
He thinks that AI has great potential for improving the technical documentation field. However, replacing humans with machines is unlikely in the foreseeable future. The limitation of AI lies in the fact that it can’t replicate human experience because certain key elements, including conducting face-to-face research, taking meaningful pictures, and engaging in human interaction, are all deeply connected to human experience. These processes demand some degree of interpretation, the ability to read the context, and physical proximity that current AI systems simply don’t have. These factors make humans indispensable in tech writing.
According to him, in this field of writing, some tasks can be automated, such as hyperlinking and creating tables for parts catalogs and instructions. Additionally, it can serve as a valuable peer review tool, aiding in developing ideas for your writing.
He thinks the writing process of technical writers will transform with the emergence of Artificial Intelligence. This groundbreaking technology has the ability to automate and enhance diverse aspects of their craft, including offering valuable feedback, suggesting potential improvements, and assisting writers in refining and broadening their ideas. With the help of AI tools, technical writers can produce more extensive and high-quality content, amplifying the capabilities of this revolutionary tool in the world of technical writing.
He also believes effective collaboration between documentation professionals and AI technology requires more than just acquiring specific skills. It involves a strong innate drive and passion for your work. However, having a basic understanding of AI and proficiency in computer skills, and creating clear and concise instructions is crucial to enhance this partnership. At the core, it’s the passion for writing and love for your work coupled with a willingness to harness AI capabilities that will lead to success in the evolving landscape of documentation.
He says, “While AI technologies are a powerful tool for content creation, the assurance of high-quality content that meets industry standards ultimately lies in human oversight. Despite AI’s capabilities, it is the human writer who brings essential skills like critical thinking, creative insight, and context understanding to the table.”
Dylan also foresees that the integration of AI into technical documentation can significantly improve documentation quality. With the ability to automate mundane tasks, enhance accuracy, and provide insights, writers can prioritize clarity, comprehension, and relevance. As a result, users can expect superior-quality documentation that exceeds their expectations. He thinks active engagement is a crucial skill for you to stay ahead of the curve step in the documentation industry.
AI technology has the potential to revolutionize technical writing. However, despite its advancement, the quality of technical writing lies in the expertise and communication skills of human writers. AI can’t comprehend the unique nuances of language or communication with SMEs, so human oversight and collaboration are required for the best results.
With a combination of human and AI capabilities, writers can create highly efficient and accurate content with incredible speed. As technology continues to evolve, writers must update their skillset to keep up with the evolving landscape, paving the way for a future full of possibilities. The future of AI in technical writing is bright and exciting, but the best results will always rely on human talent.